Nothing speaks “summer” to me like the arrival of the first strawberries—juicy enough to burst in your fingers, staining your lips, chin, shirt and knees, if you’re wearing shorts. And because it’s around this same time that I start worrying that I haven’t yet eaten my fill of tart, springy rhubarb, that I know I have to make my favorite pie.
Since Thursday night was a reading night (in Boston, away from my family, at the Levi’s store on Newbury Street), and yesterday morning was sunny, all I wanted to do was get to the beach. As the day started to warm up, I corralled Master M. and Hopper into the car, leaving Dan at home to go for a run and apply for jobs. We took off for our first summer’s outing at Mackworth Island, a small state park studded with rocky beaches in Casco Bay. Last summer we began every day here with a walk and a swim—it was the perfect start to even a heinous day. And so I knew it would truly be summer when we got there. Soon, we were jogging up the hill and into the woods, the lily of the valley dense and emerald green on the sides of the path, the water sparklingly filled with cormorants, black ducks and gulls. By the time we got to the beach where we normally stop for a dip, Hopper was barely able to contain himself. The water, to my hand, was warm enough to swim and I was bothered that I’d been too conservative to wear my suit. Oh well, instead two lovely children and their mother shared their beach toys and Master M. and I built a river with them and played waterworks.
On the way home, knowing I had a pie on the horizon for a Twitter group I belong to callled #LetsLunch (the theme this month was pies), I decided to stop at our local, The Rosemont, to see what they had fresh. I had barely even hoped for strawberries—thinking that might be a greedy, silly desire this early. But there, gleaming like rubies in little wooden crates, they sat and Master M. and I picked up two pints.
Home again we washed and halved them, tossed them in a bowl with about 1/3 as much chopped rhubarb and added a squeeze of half a lime, a sprinkle of salt, enough sugar to modestly coat the fruit and a pat of butter.(Now, I’ve recently been diagnosed with a rare allergy which became, in my case, an illness—more on that later. This condition, though, makes me allergic to spices and herbs. This puts me in, what I like to call, Foodie Exile. But if I weren’t in said Foodie Exile, I would grate a smidgen of dried nutmeg into my pie and sprinkle a tiny flurry of cinnamon and to make it perfect, I’d add the grainy insides of one vanilla bean—or two teaspoons of the extract. But since I couldn’t do that today and still eat this pie, I’ve left those out).
Into our family standard of Fannie Farmer’s 9-inch double pie crust (p. 689) our crimson fruit went, and Master M. poked the holes with a fork. I spread a little milk over the crust and popped it into the oven.
It was just then that Dan asked me if I’d put the freezer section of our Cusinart ice cream maker in the freezer. I had not! Oh dear! This machine was a gift from Dan and Master M. for my birthday last summer and is, truly, one of the best gifts I ever received—you can make ice cream on a moment’s notice! (But only if you’ve kept the cold part in the freezer!)
Dan filled it with ice and put it in the very back while I worried.
Later, after a dinner of steak on the grill and my current salad fetish (small broccoli florets, thinly sliced Vidalia onion, avocado and tender bibb lettuces, dressed with a little truffle oil, some sunflower oil, salt, lemon and rice vinegar), Master M. and I mixed up the lemon/lime ice cream (I use yogurt and milk, because I like the tang of yogurt and the body it gives ice cream.)
One and a half cups whole milk yogurt with cream
1/2 cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
juice from ½ lime and ½ lemon
zest from ½ lemon and 1 and ½ limes.
Add to ice cream maker and …delicious! (Now, if I could add spices, I’d throw in some cardamom…sigh! )
Unfortunately our ice cream never quite hardened—it was soft serve that quickly melted on the warm pie. So, we’ll have to try that part again tomorrow (too bad we have to have ice cream two days in a row!) But the flavors, together, were a little slice of summer.
Happy June! Caitlin.
To read more of my #LetsLunch meals, go to www.caitlinshetterly.com and click on "tour blog!"
Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
I'm writing this note from a lovely little B&B in Western Mass. called PORCHES where Dan, Master M. and I have gone for Mother's Day weekend to get away together (we’ve left Hopper at home with Joanna, whom both he and Master M. adore). The plan is to spend tomorrow at Mass. MOCA.
It was sunny the whole drive down and we were all so excited to take this time to be together. When we eventually got to the B&B, we were thrilled to find a hot tub and a heated pool! We quickly stripped down, pulled on bathing suits and, even though it’s early May, jumped in. As the water ran off my shoulders and I looked up from the edge of the pool to the mountains beyond, I said out loud to Dan “This is heaven.” “I know,” he said. Later we went out to dinner at a nice little bistro where, unfortunately, after a great meal, Master M. choked on a piece of Manchego. I grabbed him and slapped him on the back and then he threw up his whole dinner all over me. Afterwards I became, briefly, self-conscious. I thought, “Oh those poor people next to us! We’ve just ruined their dinner!” But as I wiped vomit from my shoulder, I realized that what really mattered was that I got to be my son’s mom when he needed me.
In that spirit, here’s a funny little thing I wrote for Oprah this week about ten things my mother always says to me—and the gift she gave me in taking us in when we needed her.
My question for you is this: What ten things does your mother always say to you??? Talk to me. I’m here.
Love and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, Caitlin.
This morning I heard on the radio that the unemployment rate is back up. It seemed to be down for a couple of weeks and the message was: Everything's fine--see it's going down! But each time it goes up (or down) I feel uncomfortable. It’s all numbers. Or, to use a term that the Bush administration coined during the Iraq war, it’s all collaterals. When you hear percentages like 8.4% do you think of the actual people who are suffering? I’m not sure. Very rarely do we read about the real effects—the terror, shame, and worse—that comes with joblessness.
It seems to me that rather than percentages and numbers like 14 million (which does not, of course, count the people who have fallen off unemployment, those who have lost the heart to keep searching for jobs or the countless freelancers who were never punched unto the system) we should be considering the fact that in New York City, for instance, the homelessness rate is the highest since the great Depression—and that 42,888 of those are children. I, for one, want to know the stories of those children. Or we should be hearing that the rising suicide rate in the US has been linked to this recession—again, I’d like to know (as painful as this is) who we’ve lost.
As all of you already know, I recently published my memoir about my own young family’s journey though the recession; my husband Dan and I lost our jobs (and, for a time, our dreams) and, shortly after the birth of our first child, we moved home with my mother. My husband and I are lucky in uncountable ways--one of the most obvious being that we had a place to go at my mom’s. Also, I wrote and sold a book based on our experience with the recession, so we have had that decent-though-not-life-changing amount of money for a while. But another way I've been lucky is that, because of my book, I have now been on a little book tour and at those readings, some otherwise unheard and desperate voices show up. And I get to hear them.
I end every one of my readings with a sing-along of Woody Guthrie’s famous song “This Land is Your Land.” At first this seemed like a fun thing to do—almost a moment of theatre in which we all get to participate. But then I realized something larger was going on. Not only are we reclaiming that song for right now—and remembering that it really was written as an angry song about the promise of the American Dream—but in the version I teach my audiences we’re singing a verse that has been edited out of the lyrics school children are taught today. It goes like this:
One bright sunny morning, in the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I saw my people--.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin’ if
This land was made for you and me?
Everywhere I go—from schools to libraries to book clubs—everyone is laughing and belting out the words at the beginning of the song (it is, after all a national anthem of sorts) but when they get to the relief office verse I hear softness—almost wonder--come into their voices. They’re very often unsure of the words to this rarely sung part of the song. But also I sense that a larger moment of meaning is happening. We know—intuitively—when we sing those words about people who are hungry and people who are wondering if this land was made for you and me—that this is happening right now and it’s even happening to some of us in the audience.
I don’t know, really, in tangible terms what to do about the economy. Wiser people than me will have to figure out how to fix it and whom to blame. But what I do know is the story of the young woman who arrived at a reading of mine (in a cavernous Borders) clutching a little purple envelope with a letter inside it for me. She stood in front of me as I hovered while people settled themselves and the announcement of my reading went out over the Borders PA system. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. She told me that her husband—with two degrees—has been laid off five times in the last three years. And that now, finally, they’ve moved in with his parents and he’s gotten a job as a custodian at a local retirement home. She told me that only now with his new job, do they feel that they can dare to start dreaming again for themselves and their two small boys. That night six people showed up at my reading (and one of them was my mother in law!) I said to them, at the end, “You know, I usually make everyone sing with me, but you’re such a small group…” And they said to me, “No we want to.” So I passed out the photocopies of Woody’s song and we started singing. Six small voices plus the voice of the Border’s employee who joined in (his headset still on, his maroon Border’s sweater pulled down over his waist, his nametag jiggling) ringing across the tables of stuff—books, games, chocolates, toys. And people who were milling around the store stopped and joined in at the parts they knew. And suddenly this small, sort of insignificant moment in South Portland, Maine, became something of a movement. I don’t know how else to describe it but it seemed that just in singing this song and these verses together we were somehow owning, in a totally human way, what has happened to this country. It felt good.
You know, I believe we're all in need of some kind of sign--a larger one than statistics--that we can get back to dreaming. And I think we can start with just, simply, singing “This Land is Your Land” (with all the verses Woody wrote) together. And by doing that we can begin to acknowledge the real human beings—not just numbers that we’re watching and hoping will affect the Dow—who have gone through (and are still going through) hard times in this country. Because, as I've said before, and I'll say again, America, was, in the end, made for you and me.
I owe you a proper blog! I've got one coming...but you know me, I really like to make it a REAL piece rather than just randomness. BUT today I've written about making some of the foods from Made for You and Me as a part of this event called "Lets Lunch." I've posted it on my website. Check it out and tell me what you think!
I am so grateful that so many of you wrote in for the book giveaway with Margaret Roach. I am blessed to be able to give her beautiful book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, away on my blog.
Choosing two of you was nearly impossible! I wanted to send you ALL her book and I wanted to send you ALL my book. So many of you wrote about the things both Margaret and I feel are important--making your own food, being simple, being loving to your families, CATS!!!, and the natural world outside our homes. But choose I must. So here's who I've chosen:
LINN: I love the simplicty of your message, here. That you can find peace and home in a cup of tea (and both Margaret and I love tea!) is so lovely to me. But it was the turtle that got me. I think often of turtles and their homes on their backs, how fragile their insides are.
Here's what Linn wrote:
"I realized long ago, after almost constant moving and traveling, that home for me is a warm cup of tea. So easy and portable it is a bit like a turtle carrying its home on its back."
NANCY SIMMONS-WALKER: I am giving you Margaret's book because you have journeyed home, as I did, after some hard, life altering events. And I love how you are connecting to the land outside, the peace in simple things and your memories of your family. Thank you for sharing your story.
Here's what Nancy wrote:
"I found have literally found home by returning to where I grew up 4 years ago after being gone 30 years. I had followed my husband on the trail his career took us, along the way we had 3 children and a sweet life but neverly really feeling any one place was “home”, just somewhere we lived until the next promotion. Four years ago my husband died suddenly in a motorcycle accident when my children were 14, 17 and 20 so I brought them to where I had family. Now the youngest has left for college and I am left with my dogs to really rediscover my roots literally and figuratively. I just started a master gardener’s class. Growing up on a farm but having lived in NYC and Ft Lauderdale it’s wonderful to be back where nature is part of my life. I love to sit at my kitchen table and watch the birds at my many feeders. I listen to the water from my fountain. All reminders of my connection to my father, mother and husband who are now part of the earth and the heavens."
Now, as I said, I wish I could have given mine and Margaret's books away to ALL of you! I loved reading your posts on both her site AND on mine. If some of you are still interested in a giveaway, Naptime Chef on Babble will be giving my book away soon!
Please stay in touch. I love to hear from you! xxo C.
LINN! I need to know how to get in touch with you!! So, when you read this make a comment WITH your email address. Thanks! Caitlin.